Well, I’ve done it again. Upset people with my opinion. I seem to be good at that. I read a blog post at http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/04/ten-commandments-for-editing-someones.html
The link was emailed to me and I responded to said email with my opinions as an editor. Now I have people acting all butt-hurt (thanks, Marie, for that colorful term) because I don’t think this guy understands what an editor’s job is. His bio says he’s an agent-turned-writer, but he doesn’t appear to have ever been an editor.
I agree with what he says from the point of view of an author and as a member of critique group. I don’t agree with it from the point of view of a freelance editor or as Executive Editor of Hidden Thoughts Press. Here are my thoughts on his points. If you agree with me, yay! If you don’t, yay! Either way, I’m good with your response. If more critique groups followed his points, we’d have more good critique groups. If more editors followed his advice, we’d have happier authors but I’m not sure we’d have more quality books. Anyway, read on if you choose.
I want to start this by saying my opinions below will probably offend some of you. And I want to say not all editors work the way I do and this may not hold true for some. But it holds true for me and will give you some insight as to how I work, regardless of whether or not you like or agree with the following responses to Nathan Bransford’s 10 Commandments blog post. I also want to point out the source is a former literary agent turned writer. According to his “About Me” section, he is not now nor ever was a professional freelance or acquisitions editor. If he was, and I’m wrong, he doesn’t make mention of it and probably should.
As an author and critiquer/critiquee, I like what this guy has to say. His advice boosts the writer’s ego.
As an editor, I have to say, “Nope.” He may have been an agent. He may be a writer. He is NOT an editor and his advice to “editors” reflects this. And authors need to remember that probably half to three-quarters of the freelance editors and many of those working in small presses or vanity/subsidy presses got a degree in English (hopefully) and declared, “I am an editor,” typically with no experience.
Here’s why, as a freelance editor and executive editor of a publishing house, I don’t agree with his 10 Commandments.
1 – Any good editor is going to remember it’s not their book. This doesn’t even need to be a commandment for good editors, and bad editors aren’t going to follow it anyway. A freelance editor who works with one client at a time may be able to work with an author to create the book they want to write. I try to, as a freelancer. As the executive editor/sometimes acquisitions editor for a small press, I won’t. My job is not to work with the author to write the book they want to write. My job is to whip the book into publishable shape as fast as possible and make changes that will create a saleable product. Freelance editors may defer to the writer but ultimately their job is to get the writer published. After all, the more published authors a freelancer has on their resume, the better they are at their job. An acquisitions editor is paid to accept and put out a popular product that will result in amazing sales for the house. Deferring to the author may or may not happen depending on the editor. I will negotiate on points. I do not defer.
2 – Again, nope. Not my job as an editor. I assume the writer wants to be published. I’m not in the business of stroking egos or providing moral support. Even as a freelance editor, I assume the writer wants to be published. There are better ways to find moral support than spending money for a freelancer or submitting to an overworked, underpaid acquisitions editor. As an editor, my approach is to give the writer what they need to get the work published. Moral support is not part of my job description.
3 – This piece of advice gets a response of, “Yes, but.” He’s right when he says, “You’re not doing anyone favors by being too nice,” but wrong when he refers back to his own Second Commandment. Again, I repeat, it’s not my job to stroke egos. I don’t change my approach based on what the author’s ego needs. I approach every job as if the writer’s goal is to be published. If they’re looking for ego stroking, find a friend or a relative, or a “puff” writer’s group.
4 – This is another “yes, but.” Again, he’s right when he says, “You’re not doing anyone favors by being a jerk either.” This is true. But writing is a dog-eat-dog profession. The author is only as good as their last sales report. There is no place for the fragile writer in the publishing world. As an editor, freelance and executive/acquisitions, I try to be polite, and I try not to crush egos , but if you want to be published, the author has to accept that most changes are orders. The changes have to be made or there’s a chance the offer to publish will be revoked. Authors need to keep in mind that an editor’s job, be it freelance or acquisitions, is to help them put out the best possible product that people will want to pick up off the shelf.
5 – Pointing out problem areas is helpful to authors. So is offering solutions TO A POINT. Part of an editor’s job, again freelance or acquisitions, is to know what’s already on the market. Editors have to make suggestions like, “What if he had feathers instead of hair?!” for two reasons. A) if there are already 20 books out their with a hairy main character, a feathered main character may have a better shot of selling a book in a possibly tired market. B) An editor’s job is to make the book better and if that means having a feathered main character, then that means having a feathered main character. If the author doesn’t like the suggestions, he’s free to change his mind and find another house or another editor. If the author doesn’t know how to fix problems like weak writing, too many pronouns, too much character filtering, whatever, then it’s the author’s job to find out. Editors are NOT writing instructors. Don’t try to make us such and don’t expect us to be such. Ask questions, make suggestions, but don’t expect us to teach you your profession. Editors don’t have that kind of time. If that’s what the author needs, then a creative writing class or a good critique group will fill that hole.
6 – Again, another, “yes, but” here. An editor does need to figure out why a scene, character, whatever isn’t working and get the author to fix it, but the editor’s job IS to figure out how to make the weak area better. That’s what editors do – they work to make books better so they sell more so the author makes more, so the house makes more so the editor gets a raise. This whole commandment reads contradictory to me too. Telling editors to identify weak stretches without thinking about how to make it stronger is just idiotic. The author doesn’t have to make the suggested changes. Probably not a wise decision if the book is being edited for publication, but still true.
7 – Bullshit. “Just make it work?” Nope. Again, I call “bullshit.” My job as editor is not to “just make it work.” My job as an editor is not to, “Throw out everything you learned in English classes.” I AM looking for theme, I AM looking for symbolism, I AM looking for what the book means. Why? Because the reader is. The reader is looking for all of this, whether they realize it or not. Readers read books which speak to them. They read for a good story, they read for strong characters, they read for theme, they read for a hidden message, they read for escape, they read for a variety of reasons. Writing is about creating a good story. Editing is about tweaking that good story to create a book readers want, be that for theme, symbolism, whatever. To ignore these parts of the writing is to ignore the purpose of the writer.
8 – Again, I call bullshit on this. No good freelancer or acquisitions editor is going to tailor their editing based on the amount of work that needs to be done. If major surgery is needed, an acquisition editor is going to reject the work sans ANY real editing. There may be notes about fixing weak plotting, weak characterization, whatever, but no editing. A freelancer who wants to add another published author to thee resume isn’t going to scale back either. Again, as a freelancer, I assume the author wants to be published. I don’t stroke egos. I focus on every issue I find. The author is paying me per word to do a job. If I see major plot or structural issues, I’m going to focus on them. If I see chapter issues, I’m going to focus on them. If I see grammar issues, I’m going to focus on them. If I see character inconsistency in actions, dialogue or descriptions, I’m going to focus on them. For me to charge someone per word for an edit, they get copy, line and content edit UNLESS THEY REQUEST OTHERWISE. For me to do less because I might damage their ego is akin to theft in my eyes. They are paying me for a job I didn’t do, in other words. There is a reason to spend time on edits that may be changed in future revisions, and the key word is “may.” If I edit a work and point out all the problem areas, a solution may be found to tweak another area that’s minor and prevent a major revision. If I hadn’t edited completely, that solution could have been overlooked, resulting in a major revisions that wasn’t truly necessary. My job as an editor is to help the author create a saleable product. If the author gets overwhelmed, they will have to find a way to deal. Harsh, I know, but true. You aren’t going to find an editor at TOR whose going to hold an author’s hand every step of the way. If they did that, there wouldn’t be a TOR publishing house.
9 – “Remember that personal taste is personal” – yep, it is. As a freelancer, I tell authors to take what they like that I’ve done and throw the rest out. As executive editor charged with growing a house and a stable of authors, guess what? It’s my why or the highway. Why? Because it’s also part of my job to know what readers want, to know what will sell and what won’t and make sure those books that won’t sell for Hidden Thoughts Press don’t see print with that name on them. I try to keep my personal reactions out of an edit when I’m looking for works for HTP because I know my personal reactions are just that. I’m looking for works that will resonate positively with the reading majority, even if they don’t with my. I’m in the business of making money. If I make a dream come true with the offer of a publishing contract, that’s great. But that isn’t my goal. My goal is to find works that will sell and edit them to give them the best chance at that. Most professional editors are going to have that same approach.
10 – Another, “yes, but” response. My job as a freelancer or executive/acquisitions editor is to be positive, but to still tell an author how it is. If a manuscript sucks, it sucks. Being positive isn’t going to change that. As a freelancer, I’d be happy to work with an author to create a work that doesn’t suck through offering suggestions and even brainstorming on problem areas. I like to see people succeed, and I like to be a part of their success. As an executive/acquisitions editor, my job is to reject manuscripts that suck, not work with the author to make it better. My goal is never to crush someone’s spirit, but I have to tell it like it is. Anything less is a disservice to the author. So my response, as a freelancer is, “be positive but tell it like it is. This sucks but here’s why and here’s how to fix it.” As an executive/acquisitions editor, my job is to reject those that suck, not fix them.
In the end, my job as an editor, regardless of whether I’m in the role of a freelancer or executive/acquisitions editor for Hidden Thoughts Press, is to help the manuscript sell. If I tell you, you have too many pronouns, it’s not my job to tell you how to fix the problem or give examples. That is for a good critique group to do. If you, as the author, don’t understand what I’m saying, or don’t know how to fix the problem, then it’s your job to find out, to ask questions and to make sure you understand the comments. Your friends, family and critique group are your support system; they will be there to hold your hand and call that editor nasty names with you. The editor’s job to make sure you have a manuscript that sells, not hold your hand and stroke your ego. Selling books is the essence of editing. What this blog describes is the essence of a good critique group.
Well, we are back from Salt Lake City! World Horror Con 2012 was a fantastic time. I got to catch up with old friends, make new friends and meet people who I’ve been chatting with on Facebook. The Stoker Awards were great and I got to see Rick Hautala and Joe Lansdale receive their Lifetime Achievement Awards. Jeff Strand entertained us all with comedic talents and John Skipp became a grandpa. All in all, an outstanding weekend. I can’t wait for the Stokers next year. 2013 will find us in New Orleans. Prepare yourselves for my onslaught as I attempt to get my story, “Widdershins” into the running. Those haunted house statues are the ultimate in cool and I want one!
Okay, yeah, I know. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. Life keeps interferring with what I need to get done.
I now have a pretty good grasp on the new novel. Still no title yet, but the characters come out to play more easily.
I have a few pages of notes for the new novella. No title there yet either, but the characters desperately want to come out and play.
Sapphires & Toadstones has been recorded and is in the final editing stages for the upcoming Wicked Women Writers contest from Horror Addicts. That should be sent in soon, provided the Technology Gods quit screwing with me. I swear, I am their center of attention right now. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least for this post to either A) not show up or B) show up with words I did not write.
A new short story called Down That Road . . . is coming together, and a few previously written short stories have finally agreed to let themselves be edited. Much easier to do when the characters cooperate.
Stories contained in the Live and Let Undead anthology from Library of the Living Dead Press are coming along in their second round of edits, and stories for The Wickeds anthology from Horror Addicts are coming along in their first round of edits. Those should be sent back to the respective authors in the next few weeks.
And Mr. Stabby may have a new playmate. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Stabby, he is an old knife I rescued from Goodwill after unkind people rudely disposed of him. He has a carbon steel blade and a heavy hickory wood handle. In his previous life, Mr. Stabby was used for breaking down meat carcasses. And when I say carcasses, I mean like half a cow. Now, he is much happier in his new role as my enforcer. Anyway, Mr. Stabby has been anxious to meet the Evil Little Jester, a friend of fellow author Charles Day. We will see how that goes.
And finally, I have a spot on Steve Lockely’s blog scheduled for July 23rd as a guest blogger. What possessed him to open it up to me and several fellow writers and editors , I don’t know. But, I’m taking advantage of it. Look for the link as we get closer to the day.
Well, on Saturday (the 19th) my husband and I went to Denver, CO for a networking event at the Tattered Cover. The email said this event was for networking anyway, with local writers, editors, publisher and writing groups coming together to find out about each other, talk, etc. There were supposed to be information tables too. We were both expecting a true networking opportunity. Not what we got.
The first problem was the location. This branch of the Tattered Cover (there are 3 locations in Denver) happened to be part of the 16th Street Mall. In and of itself, not a bad place for a bookstore. However, when the streets surrounding the bookstore are all under construction, we ended up in a “you can’t get there from here” scenario. Once we did find a parking garage, nearly all the spots were for compact cars. Now we don’t have a big, gas-guzzling SUV or an oversize pickup. We have an Acura CL and a Toyota Corolla. We drove the Acura that day because it actually gets better gas mileage than the Toyota. The Acura is not a large car, but it’s not a compact either. So, in a nearly empty parking garage, I can’t find a parking space because the spots, as I said, are all for compact size cars. I did see a Toyota Corolla parked in one compact spot and it was almost too big. That should give you an idea as to the size of the spots. We finally found one, and hoped no one parked next to us on either side, because there would be no way to get the doors open.
So, now we have finally gotten the car parked and go to leave the parking garage. Normally, we would take the stairs, but after the battle just to get to the parking garage, both of us decide to take the elevator. Come to find out, the only way to get to the elevator is down a short flight of stairs. Not a problem, but I noticed two handicapped parking spots next to the sign pointing to the elevator. So, if you do need a handicapped spot, you can park right next to the access for the elevator. Makes sense, until you realize that a handicapped individual has a choice of either struggling down 6-8 concrete stairs, or walking along the rear of the parking spaces to the ramp that cars fly (and I do mean FLY) up and down to reach different levels of the parking garage, manuver down the ramp and make essentially a U-turn to go back to the elevator, again along the rear of parking places, all the while hoping they don’t become a new smear on the concrete. I’m sure there’s logic in this design, but it is escaping me.
Okay, so now we are down and out. Finally. We walk to the bookstore and go it.
The bookstore is gorgeous. Old wood plank flooring that creaks when you walk on it, tall wooden bookshelves that create both a maze and the expectation of finding a new treasure around every corner, the smell of book dust and coffee. Absolute heaven. My hope for the networking event went higher. We make it to the second floor and walk the hallway to the Event Center (read room too small to hold all the attendees). And met my disappointment full on.
One table in the room with two bowls of candy and two clipboards to sign up for something next to a raised podium. Not sure what the sign up was for as I couldn’t make it into the room. I was figuring writers, editors, publishers, and representatives from different writing groups all talking and forming relationships, as I said. What I found was a large group of people sitting in the room listening to people read as-of-yet unpublished poetry or excerpts from as-of-yet unpublished novels. Nearly everyone was dressed in business casual too. They did not look like writers. At least not to me. And the golf claps when people finished their readings. Have you ever noticed how annoyingly polite a golf clap is? I did. Who knew applause could get under my skin?
Believe it or not, I am not trying to complain about this event we went to. I think its great to have these kinds of gatherings. Writers need all the exposure we can get. What I am complaining about is the advertising. That was the second problem of the day.
What we expected from the email and what we got were two very different things. I saw and heard a lot of verbal back-patting and a lot of “Why haven’t you published yet?” type questions. Great ego boosts, which, again, authors need. However, I did not see or hear a lot of networking, which authors need as well. Basically, the email made this sound like a 6-hour writer’s conference where people in the industry and those trying to get into the industry can meet, greet and form connections. Not a 6-hour live reading.
The atmosphere in that area had a very hoity-toity feel to it. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t do hoity-toity. I am not a skirt suit and high heels kinda gal. I am a nice shirt, torn jeans and flip-flop kinda gal. And it says something when I live in Colorado Springs and am too “hick” for Denver.
So we left the event, bought a few books to support authors and the local bookstore and left.
Now we come to the third problem. My husband and I were in the bookstore for about 30 to 45 minutes. The parking fee at the garage should have been reasonable (and yes, I knew it wasn’t going to be when we parked but we will get there). Denver does not have parking attendants in the garages most of the time. Everything is automated. You get your parking ticket from a machine on the way in, and you pay your parking fee to a machine on the way out. However, the machine to pay the fee is not in the parking garage. It is outside the lobby at the ground floor of the garage. So you stick your ticket in, the machine tells you how much to pay (cash only, by the way), you stick your money in, the machine prints on your ticket to say it’s been paid, spits it back at you and your on your way. Now, you have 15 minutes or less to get to the lobby, up the elevator, to your car, drive your car down the levels to the exit, and stick your ticket back in another machine so it will let you out. No, I don’t know what happens if you don’t make it due to elevator problems, car problems, machine problems or traffic back ups. And for all this, the parking fee was $10.00. Since we went on a weekend, the fee was the maximum charge regardless of how long we were actually parked. Like I said, yes I knew this going in, but it still aggravates me. Especially when parking on the street is $2 for every 15 minutes. Ridiculous. I thought a dollar an hour was outrageous in downtown Colorado Springs. Guess not.
So like I said, we left and went to find the Highlands Ranch location of the Tattered Cover because I am going back up to the Denver Metro area on Thursday for a book signing. I wanted to be prepared for parking issues, fees, etc. None of that should be a problem on Thursday as this Tattered Cover is not in the middle of under-construction downtown Denver and has its own dedicated FREE parking lot. And we found a great hot dog place called Bernie’s. If you have occasion to be in the Highlands Ranch area, stop in. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
After finding this little treasure in the suburbs of Denver, my husband and I went on a lovely drive through the mountains, worked out story ideas and plot issues, and came home. Overall, it was a really great day ending on a high note. My only gripe is improper advertising. Would I have still gone if I’d known the focus of the event was going to be live readings? Yes. (I’m always one to support local authors.) But, I would have gone up with different expectations and a different attitude. Same outfit though. Flip-flops cannot be beat.
Are bones! Ha!
Seriously though, computers are under my skin today.
Technology in general, but computers specifically.
I hate them. They are a necessary evil, I suppose, but it seems I spend more time combating viruses and pop-ups than anything else. People who write these malicious things should be hung by their . . . well, the most immediately available appendage.
After the day I have had with my computer, I am ready to toss it out the window. Of course, I think that goes for just about every piece of technology I have.
If technology is the new god to be worshipped, then he’s an ass!
Except for the coffee maker. It loves me and I love it. The coffee maker can stay.